What will Manny do?
New Cleveland Indians' manager Manny Acta faces his first real challenge, at least publicly with the ownership and upper management of the team.
Left Field heir-apparent Michael Brantley had a great end of season in 2009 when the Tribe called him up in September. He batted .313 in 28 games after the call-up. Brantley was batting .357 with a .447 on-base percentage and a .419 slugging percentage this spring prior to rolling his ankle Saturday.
Brantley appears more than ready to assume duties full-time for the Indians in left field, providing his ankle sprain is minor as the team has reported.
But this may or may not take place, based on the recent financial misfortunes of the team.
Here is the struggle; Put Brantley on the opening day roster as he has earned the position or hold him back in the minors until 3 - 4 months into the season to defer his arbitration ability for the future, as has been the practice recently.
Owner Dolan and GM Shapiro have to be salivating over this ankle sprain thinking this is the deciding factor at giving Brantley more time in the minors and delaying his future at arbitration. It is no secret that ownership and upper management don't give the Indians chances to be competitive this season a snowball's chance in hell.
But manager Manny Acta has been charged with putting the best 25 men on the field on a daily basis when the season begins. His reputation and future depend on it.
It is no secret that I detest the ownership of the Cleveland Indians by the Dolans and the management of the team by Mark Shapiro. As a lifelong fan of the team, I can only wait out these circumstances until they improve. Long standing Indians fans have been through this many times in the past; the most infamous GM in Tribe history, Frank "Trader" Lane put this team in a tailspin that took decades to overcome, the near loss of the franchise in Cleveland in the 70's and 80's until they were heroically rescued by the Jacob's brothers, and now the short-armed ownership of the Dolans combined with the painfully economical management of Shapiro have brought this team to the brink of disaster once again. We need another hero and Dick Jacobs is no longer with us.
That said, Manny Acta is at a crossroads himself early on in his management of the Cleveland Indians. Does he knuckle under to Shapiro and see Michael Brantley off to Columbus for a few months or does he insist on having Brantley on the opening day team?
Unlike the Dolans and Shapiro, Acta has to believe this team can be competitive in the American League Central right now. The team is 11 - 5 in spring training games. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it is only spring training but what would you say if they were 5 - 11?
Manny, here is hoping you are your own man and Brantley is in Chicago with the team on opening day.
I still insist that, given the ability of the other 4 teams in our division, this Indians team will be competitive this season, just as they were in 2005 and 2007 with many such "unknown" ballplayers. Call me a dreamer, a homer, or whatever, but come August, you may be a believer as well. Come on Manny Acta, be all that you can be and put the best 25 on the field and that includes Michael Brantley.
This will be a very interesting two weeks!